Message sparks new friendships

A BOTTLE tossed into the North Sea years ago has led to a potential friendship between children in Suffolk and a family in Holland.

A BOTTLE tossed into the North Sea years ago has led to a potential friendship between children in Suffolk and a family in Holland.

When the pupils at the Abbots Hall Primary School in Stowmarket put their messages into the sea on December 1 2000 little did they know that it would turn up on Dutch shores more than seven years later and potentially create a unique bond between two countries.

The eight and nine-year-olds threw 20 bottles in to the water at Felixstowe as part of a project about how quickly - or slowly - we can communicate with other people.

Debbie Knight, now headteacher, who was working at the school as its deputy head at the time, clearly remembers the day when students in a colleague's class sent their correspondence off asking those who found them to let the school know how far the missives travelled.

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Mrs Knight said: “There were about 20 bottles that went and after a few weeks we had replies from people very locally who reported finding them.

“Then we simply forgot about the rest. Now this year a Dutch family have found one, and a second has come to light in Essex, both this year.

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“It's incredible and we can't quite believe it that this message found its way to a little boy in Holland, but it is wonderful.

“Today's students are really excited and now wonder what projects they might do. Originally we were teaching the youngsters about communication and the different forms, television, radio, newspapers, pigeons and messages in a bottle and the different speeds they work at.”

One bottle was found recently by a Dutch family on a beach near their home at Petten and who wrote to the school and who teachers now hope to start exchanging letters or e-mails with.

Hedy and Wim Bersee, who have two young children and live in Schagerbrug, told how they found the bottle while at the beach after very stormy weather, and drew a map of where it came to light.

Mrs Berse said: “My son Jo, who is three, saw a plastic bottle and the cap was already beginning to get broke so it was a good thing the letters were in plastic. We were all very surprised. These letters have been in the sea for almost eight years.”

A second bottle was also found recently very close to St Peter's Chapel at Bradwell-on-sea in Essex by Den and Diane Lystor from Burnham-on-Crouch and their dog Jack, who unearthed it amongst shrubs next to the seawall.

Inside was the intact letter, some pencils, a rubber and an envelope from the pupils.

Yesterday some of the students who sent the original messages and their former teacher Kelly Simmons who is now working at a Felixstowe school, returned to see the replies and meet the current children who were amazed by the find years on.

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